Augmented Reality For Ecommerce?

Colleen Thornton

It’s a shopper’s world. As more consumer activity occurs online, the greater the advantage Shopify merchants have to give their customers the best user experience possible. 

Shopify has always been a leader in ecommerce. They stay current on trends and technology, they know what users want, and they give them loads of free, helpful content. But perhaps most important for the merchant, Shopify makes it easy for people to run an online business.

If you’re a new or experienced Shopify owner, you may already know that Shopify has added augmented realities for images to their toolkit for merchants. You may have already interacted with augmented reality (AR) in some form, whether through your Shopify business or as a consumer. 

If AR is a fairly new concept for you, prepare to be blown away by what is now available easily and without an app to all Shopify merchants.

We’ll look at what AR is, some well-known examples, why it’s going to revolutionise online shopping, and how it works in Shopify.


Augmented reality superimposes effects, such as images and sound onto the real world to optimise our experience. Virtual reality, on the other hand, is completely computer-generated. 

Most of us experience augmented reality through our mobile phones or tablets. The Star Walk app by Vito Technology is a popular example. It enables access to information by superimposing graphics and text on a virtual map of the solar system and constellations in response to pointing your phone toward the sky. 

You might also remember the worldwide sensation that the mobile AR game Pokemon Go created in 2016. According to CNET, more than 100 million people interacted with it, and it drew more than $2 billion in revenue. 

What Makes AR So Critical For eCommerce?

AR takes what is already known and familiar and enhances it. In a sense, it encourages us to stay engaged when reality gets a bit humdrum. Think about it––how interesting did your neighbourhood suddenly become when a series of Pokemon characters paid a visit? 

From an artistic point of view, particularly in contrast to otherwise still images, AR allows us to see things from all sides like 3D images, but with affect. That is, we control how we view and interact with a computer-generated image of an object, rather than being a passive receiver.

As technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, online shopping is becoming more sophisticated. For ecommerce owners, AR is a huge benefit for making product information highly accessible and enhancing the customer experience. 

What Buyers Really Want

Similar to video marketing, augmented reality for ecommerce is not a cool extra; it’s becoming a necessity. The more we know or can experience something at the interest stage of the buying cycle, the more likely we’ll be to purchase it and be satisfied. 

Marketing psychology suggests that when we buy a product, we’re really buying an experience. We don’t just want an electric bicycle; we want freedom of movement without all the push-pedal work. We want to exercise with the option to coast for a while when we get tired. We want access to places we couldn’t otherwise reach because cycling can be physically demanding. 

Happiness science (yes, there is such a thing, and it comes out of Yale University) suggests that spending our money on experiences rather than things delivers a deeper sense of life satisfaction, well-being, and happiness (we’re a quick-to-bore species). But we’re attached to things, so to have both––a tangible object and an experience––wrapped up into one purchase doubles the payback. 

How Shopify Uses AR 

Shopify is one of the first ecommerce platforms to jump onboard and integrate AR into their services marketplace. 

Shopify merchants can now create 3D images of their products that potential buyers can interact with and examine from multiple angles with a simple click and drag of their mouse. No mobile app is required, and the clunky VR headsets of yesteryear don’t factor in either. It’s simple shopping, dramatically enhanced, a try-before-you-buy. 

And Shopify knows this is a winner because 3D models using AR have been shown to increase conversion rates by up to 250% on product pages (source). 

AR also presents a particular stress for Shopify business owners because it presents one more thing to keep up with

But let’s be clear about using AR in ecommerce, it’s not a novel add-on that is going to fizzle out by next year. AR has the potential to revolutionise online shopping because it gives us that experience we crave. That is, it immerses us in the shopping experience in a way that, up until recently, was only available through physical contact with an object––an experience that an album of still photos can’t give us. 

How Does It Work?

From a technical standpoint, AR is fairly sophisticated. In a nutshell, it uses computer vision and trail cameras to anchor a virtual object to real surroundings. Simultaneous localisation, mapping, and depth tracking enable cameras to collect, send, and process data to display relevant digital content, requested through the user’s interaction with the image. It essentially brings products to life, which helps potential buyers size them up before making a purchase. 

In 2018, Apple’s AR Quick Look enabled viewing a product through AR 3D images on iOS 12 mobile devices through Safari without requiring an app. Since 2019, Reality Composer has further enhanced AR. For the Shopify platform, that means regular updates and exciting new possibilities for merchants to improve their customer experience.

We recently incorporated Shopify's AR feature for our clients, Cardboard Magic - a wonderful product for kids to develop their creativity. Check it out here.

Want to know more about how to integrate AR images into your Shopify storefront? As a Shopify marketing agency, we have solutions for improving user experience for ecommerce in Ireland specifically, but we help Shopify merchants all over the world. We also provide a free 30-minute consultation to help you with any aspect of your Shopify business.

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